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Wake Up Call – Being a Premier League Fan in America

Wake Up Call – Being a Premier League Fan in America

When my alarm clock went off I figured it had to be a mistake.

Possibly the time got pushed forward through some electronic glitch and it’s really still close to midnight? There is no way it’s already 4:15 am, that was a whole four hours away when I laid down a second ago. I swear, the slightest blink and back awake before gravity took my head to my shoulder has eroded the entire four hour window I carved out by ditching the bars early last night. I was supposed to relish that time, not skip it.

Ugh, whatever, it’s matchday.

To me, and many other American’s scattered in small towns, big cities, and in pockets of earth everywhere in between, the Barclays Premier League is not optional. The weekly rush of life-gratifying victory, or soul crushing how-will-I-get-through-the-international-break taste of defeat is as much as a necessary piece of my life as consuming alcohol in the morning. Sure life might go on in theory, but would I really even want it to?

When that alarm goes off and I finally do stretch out the cobwebs to open my FotMob app on my phone with one cracked eye, the justification is already apparent. The feeling of Premier League matchday evokes a certain adrenaline (or is it dopamine) rush that reminds you why you love it. Every ‘1’ or ‘2’ on the scoreboard across the league could represent beautiful team counter, or an overhead kick, or maybe it even *gasp* was an own goal. While your eyes fixate on your own club, whether on a beautiful NBC Live stream (honestly, thank you) or through a reddit link, the rest of the world is having a kick, creating chances and adding pages to this season’s screenplay, which will eventually be binded and filed away in the world’s largest collection of transcribed magic.

On this particular morning, I find myself in the salt water air of San Diego, California in a small pub by the name of Shakespeare. There are 30 or so of us sitting around wooden tables, some with coffee, others with alcohol, everyone with smiles. The Tottenham (yuck) game is finishing up and there is a man in an Ashley Cole Chelsea jersey in front of me. I shake my head in joking disgust and he goes “oh you’re a gunner aren’t ya” and we laugh and cheers.

It’s a unique group, American Premier League fans, as it is actually one of the only collection of individuals who follow the league in it’s entirety. In England, (according to Men In Blazers I think, this is a blog, sue me) supporters follow more their club than the entire macroscope lens we see it through every weekend morning. Due to obvious time differences we find ourselves choosing between the 4:30 am game (west coast) or sleeping in until the 7’s, frantically googling to find a bar open in your current vicinity that sounds european enough to possible have Fox Soccer Plus. I’s a grueling process, but one that universally unites all patrons once arrived, with only a simple nod and a smile enough to acknowledge your respect for one another’s efforts to wind up in that particular bar chair this early.

That’s how I ended up at Shakespeare’s. As I type this, the sun is peeping above a blind drawn to satisfy the 75 year old British man to my left, and he keeps rambling on about the Sunderland fans showing no respect leaving early after only 10 minutes and two goals allowed.

“Where’s the spirit? Where is the hope?” He mumbles on. “The beautiful moments that occur only after sure defeat, those are the only worth celebrating anyways! Why have your ass in a pint down the street when the boys are looking at an empty seat?”

I asked him to repeat what he just said slowly so I could get it right.

The result? Oh it really doesn’t matter. If The Arsenal prevail or break my heart it’s all the same. Next week it will probably be another bar, another set of people, another fixture. The feeling though, it actually can’t change if it wanted to.

Because there is something about a human sacrificing a thing universally adored for genetic reasons, sleep, in exchange for watching an imitation of art performed by men not allowed to use their hands, that creates a sense of achievement and energy unrivaled. When men and women gather in the sunrise light at a bar, usually with a man still sweeping up in a corner from last night’s late close, to be greeted by a bartender as eager for the drama as you are, the love is palatable. The beer gets flowing and the conversations get louder, Dele Alli flops and we bash him, then he dances beautifully and we praise him. Andy Carroll makes everyone crack up laughing and then hold our heads screaming. That one guy still says that if Charlie Adam can last the 90 then he could get a trial.

It’s everything that is right about sport. If you want to be there, you made a true effort to do so. No one is getting talked into going there if they don’t want to be there. Only those with a knowledge or desire (neither more valuable than the other) in attendance, the orchestra plays another set of tunes. While your ears stay fixed on one, the echo of others can be heard (or seen in the top right corner) whenever you turn your attention.

From San Diego to Boston, Michigan to Houston, there are those individuals who feel that this matters. Who quite literally lose sleep over their men and the pursuit of either a title or ‘not relegation.’ With jerseys on our backs and a guinness in our hand we peer through squinting eyes at the current chapter of our story, never knowing if this week is when the twist happens.

And next time you find yourself surrounded by peers, enjoying whatever you please, with an eye on the clock and another on Danny Welbeck’s incredible man pectorals ask yourself this: Have I ever been this peaceful?

At least for me, the sleep can wait until I’m either dead or soccer goes away. But that’s a conversation for another time.

For now, it’s matchday.

 

 

 

 

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Donald Trump and the New England Patriots – Why This Matters

Donald Trump and the New England Patriots – Why This Matters

Let me start this off by saying that you can be a fan of the New England Patriots without supporting Donald Trump. You may also be a Trump supporters who feel the New England Patriots are the worst part of football. Opinions work that way. You are entitled to your own and do not need to disclose that information unless you feel the urge to do so.

You can even be a fan of football and be disinterested in politics. You are allowed to know nothing about the President of the United States but everything about the yards per carry of James White. The Patriots and Trump are two of the most polarizing topics on the national forefront today, and nothing you feel about them individually requires a parallel thought about the other.

What can’t be ignored is the fact that both Donald Trump and the New England Patriots have had their names in the same sentences dating back to the Fall of 2015, and this should matter to everyone more than it currently does.

“Tom Brady is a great friend of mine. He’s a winner and he likes winners.” – Trump, March 2016

It all ‘started’ with the image above.

In the Fall of 2015 Tom Brady spoke to the media outside his locker in Gillette Stadium with a ‘Make America Great’ hat visible in the corner. It was calculated, it was placed, and it was significant.

While many feel this hat was strategically inserted to signify a friendship that was starting to boom, it was actually closer to representing the type of brand association a recently-declared Donald Trump was using his long-time friend Tom Brady for in a crucial moment of his campaign.

Branding, or the art of creating an emotion your name or logo becomes associated with, is one of the biggest strengths our President possesses. Since he first began boasting about wealth and power in his youth, Donald was formulating what the name Trump was going to mean to those who prefer their opinions handed to them. The questions of ‘how much money’ or tangible numbers mattered not to those who had been associating Trump with wealth since the first time they heard the name. Think of Trump, and imagine the massive golden hotels, the intricate casinos, the sheer beauty of what was created in his name. Donald Trump, what a rich man.

If you remember that speech from the Fall of 2015, when Donald Trump declared his campaign as active for the Presidential Nomination, the headlines surrounding it honed in on a hard stance regarding immigration (he called Mexicans rapists) and a promise to make our nation what it used to be.

Professional athletes like Tom Brady completely understand the value of branding and creating a profitable image, so the idea that this could have been coincidence will not be respected in this piece. Brady knew exactly what he was doing at a very crucial time to the Trump campaign.

Trump needed legitimization, and what better way to portray yourself a winner than get the ringing endorsement of a man known by all as just that. Tom Brady, for the past 15 years, has become synonymous with greatness and consistent success through commitment, hard work, and persistence. Brady acknowledges the brand he has created in this Under Armour commercial from 2016, where he wears the number of his famously low NFL Draft selection and repeats the same grueling process, which we can assume leads him to the live success we see each Sunday.

If this had been the only contribution to the Trump campaign conducted by members of the New England Patriots, there would be nothing to see here. One athlete making one calculated product placement during a crucial time is enough for a headline, but not enough to propel a candidate to victory. That was not the case.

When Donald Trump made the ‘Locker Room Talk’ comment in October of last year, Tom Brady refused to denounce the words. Then, the immediate Monday afterwards, he appeared on Boston Sports Radio and spoke about how ‘Donald has been my friend for 16 years’ and again chose to place his brand in the firing line for someone he openly supported, even through the lowest moments.

For those who don’t get their news through twitter, who value football every Sunday over the evening news, and hold Tom in the highest regard, these comments from Trump were brushed aside due to the swift action of his good friend, and trustworthy, Tom Brady.

At this point, we have potentially the two biggest obstacles in the Donald Trump campaign trail belittled with the help of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

As mentioned before, the power of branding can’t be overstated. Ask your local Instagram model or aspiring youtube sensation. You must create something that resonates with an audience, allows them to trust what you provide as entertaining or worthwhile, and eventually put their money where their mouth is and support you.

That is exactly what Donald Trump has done, and continues to do, with the Super Bowl bound New England Patriots.


The above video was taken by a member of the audience during Donald Trump’s final speech before election day. That’s right, the very night before the ruler of our national would be decided, Donald Trump stood on a podium and recited words written to him by the greatest football coach in American history.

The beginning of a presidential campaign needs a propulsion in order to separate a candidate from the rest of the pack. Then, during a campaign, there will come a time where all hope seems lost and you need a strong backing from someone respected nationally. Finally, right before the curtain pulls behind a voter, you need something to tap them on the back of the brain and say “This guy could be the one, look who supports him.”

In all three of those instances, the New England Patriots were there to lend a helping hand. The ‘no distractions’ motto recited time and time again by the one coach who seems a walking embodiment of the word ‘calculated’ was disregarded for what? For the aiding in the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.

As previously mentioned, the idea that the world is ending or this is somehow a condemnation of the Patriots or Donald Trump is soaked in a pot of overreaction and pessimism. This is not the worst thing to ever happen to America, nor is it the best thing. It is another President taking office in a nation seemingly small enough to exist on our phones, but too large to drive in one day. Things happen you might not always agree with, but we carry on all the same.

What this is meant to portray is the level of cross-promotion both Trump and the Patriots were comfortable performing in tandem with one another. For whatever reason, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady felt their assistance of Donald Trump was necessary and essential to whatever cause they are pursuing. If it isn’t as complicated as that, then the New England Patriots aren’t as smart as we thought they were.

It’s a seemingly huge risk to legitimize a candidate maligned by so many, when your entire profession is under constant scrutiny by often times those same members of society who despise your selection. It makes no sense unless there was a direct motive to do so. Bill Belichick is a lot of things, but reactionary or impulsive is not one of them.

When it came down to it, America voted Donald Trump as the next President of the United States with the ringing endorsement of the “most hated team in American sports” still echoing in living rooms across the country.

Ask yourself this, America.

Do you really hate the Patriots? Or do you hate that they aren’t your team. Because when election time rolled around…

The brand spoke for itself.

 

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NFL PLAYOFF PODCAST SPECIAL ft. Cousin Luke

NFL PLAYOFF PODCAST SPECIAL ft. Cousin Luke

Mikey is back and he takes the lead this week in a Podcast special with first time guest, Cousin Luke.

They break down the upcoming slate of NFL Wildcard games, the MVP debate, and even their biggest surprises of the season. Luke is an NFL expert with his own podcast you can find out about in the audio. Enjoy!

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How is One Supposed to Feel…

How is One Supposed to Feel…

Craig Sager passed away today at the age of 65 after a long bout with cancer.

I don’t think Craig Sager needs any introduction to someone who finds themselves reading these words. He was the voice of the NBA on TNT sidelines, a beloved figure in the sports community, and someone who attacked life with positivity and love. Cancer plays no favorites, and today he sadly passed away.

It’s a weird feeling, losing someone in your life that you never met. Craig did not know me, nor did I know him personally, but the world (and our connections in it) often times stretch farther than the physical state.

I’ve been reading this a lot today. You should too. It is an old article from 2014 written by Jake when we were both students at Springfield College. I don’t know if he knows this, but after that article was posted I found myself texting him for what might have been the first time. We were not close friends, barely had spoken, and I didn’t even really like Phillip Seymour Hoffman. For some reason I felt a connection to that article, and told him about it. The inability to describe how you are supposed to feel when someone ‘in’ your life passes away that you never met is something I think my fragile and dramatic emotional state needed an explanation on. It’s confusing, but necessary.

…we never had the chance to meet these people but once they’re gone they’re no more or no less alive to us than they were while living… -Jake 2014

Reopening it today made me realize that the same thing applied to me when Craig Sager passed away and it hit my timeline on twitter. A sudden wave of grief and sadness that wasn’t really explicable to anyone in my vicinity at the time. Am I okay? Yea sure, I didn’t know him.

 It was completely bizarre to me. How was I supposed to feel about it? I had no idea and that was making me upset. – Jake 2014

Working in sports means that most of what you do gets repetitive and becomes annoying. Who wants to write 45 articles on Ryan Lochte in Brazil or speculate about Tony Romo for a month? Getting into this business was supposed to become an outlet for expression through the concept of sports, not condensing emotionless takes into one hundred words or less. It becomes mundane, saturated, and boring after a while.

Now, tell me one time you looked at Craig Sager and thought he was boring, repetitive, or annoying? The camera would pan to him, and with the biggest smile you have seen since your little brother on Christmas he was there ready to update you on the recent cramp LeBron James suffered as if he was in charge of consumer morale and not sideline updates.

By all accounts he was the same way off the court. There are stories from every member of the NBA community about a time that Sager made their day better. He famously kicked out multiple nurses from his room at the hospital for not being happy enough. He wore suits with bright colors just to get you to smile.

Positivity, which he proved is contagious as any virus, seemed to radiate off of his skin with an infectious nature that no real world issue could vaccinate.

When his time finally came, he fought some more. When the time FINALLY came, he fought more. Today, he did not lose, he simply passed into the next place to brighten up the day of those he contacted there.

So how are we supposed to feel about all of it. There really isn’t a culminating answer to that, because obviously everyone processes news a different way. When you don’t know somebody, you can not claim to be depressed or leave work early. You can’t sulk around and go get too drunk at a bar because of your loss.

But what you can do is understand that the world is seldom blessed with people who smile so genuinely. When there are problems that exist in the lives of every single breathing person, the people that change the world do all they can to seek out love. Craig Sager was able to approach each day with the goal in mind that he could leave every individual happier than they were before his interaction.

That was what made his job so special. He was in charge of collecting information from athletes to benefit the viewing audience within a span of a minute at most, from men currently in the midst of performing a highly demanding task. No easy task at all, but the minute a player or coach came into contact with Craig, that light went on, and they saw him smile as if he was about to crack up laughing as he asked the first question regardless of subject, they smiled in return.

Look at every single player or coach in the images above alongside Sager. Smiles. Happiness. The brink of laughter.

So yea, none of us knew Craig Sager like those in his immediate circle did. We don’t mourn his loss the way we would some of them surely are. But he matter to us.

He mattered to me.

In a place and time where cynicism sells, controversy sparks revenue, and people walk around with their face to the sidewalk, Sager was rich in a form of currency that isn’t accepted in most places. He will not live on with us to face whatever is next in our lives, and the nature of his work does not allow us to go back and watch him extensively perform his craft, but his message is one that will never become outdated.

I will end with this.

Jake talked a lot in the piece I linked to earlier (also here) about the idea of dying a second death. When you pass away and then your name passes away afterwards. You cease to exist past a few generations of spoken word memories, and then what? Then, well, I don’t know. That’s sort of why this site exists.

In the case of Craig Sager, I just hope he accomplished whatever it was he set out for. He won’t be dying the second death anytime soon.

Thank you, Craig. Rest in Peace.

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Jeff Fisher to Meet with Donald Trump Today

Jeff Fisher to Meet with Donald Trump Today

The ex-Rams head coach is scheduled to arrive at Trump Tower sometime between noon today and noon tomorrow to discuss a vacant leadership position in charge of stabilization during our nation’s relocation to Russia.

Fisher, who was fired yesterday from the Los Angeles NFL franchise, was instrumental in the move that saw the Rams leave St. Louis for more western pastures. Now, with the help of Russian intelligence, he is looking to oversee the more large-scale movement of most of America’s independence, pride, and civilians to our closest allies… Russia.

No word yet as to who else is interviewing for the job, but Fisher is quoted as saying “At least fucking Case Keenum won’t have anything to do with it this time.” He later went on to add “Fuck Eric Dickerson.”

Dickerson, for once, refused to comment.

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The Best Team in the Premier League is Arsenal FC

The Best Team in the Premier League is Arsenal FC

Arsenal have the player of the season, coach of the season, and signing of the summer. 

There comes a time in every Arsenal season where the floor just disappears.

Fans are left wondering how we dropped so many points, players often times promise positive turnarounds, #FireArsene starts trending on twitter, arsecast podcasters start screaming, and all hell breaks loose. Then, when the title is squarely out of realistic expectations, they start to fire on all cylinders and finish the season on a run of form that absolutely maddens the supporters.

Oh and they are eliminated from the Champions league round of 16 much the same way. Give up an awful first leg defeat, come storming back, HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN, and suck.

Okay, that was therapeutic, done now.

This season, everywhere you turn, Antonio Conte’s stupid fake hair is posterized in front of some 145 pound skinny ex-player saying that it is ‘Chelsea’s title to lose’ or whatever the phrase is at the moment. I am so far done with ‘American soccer punditry’ that if I see another person slightly resembling Kyle Martino make no mistake about it I will be asking my mother for bail money.

The other story lines revolve around Jose Mourinho’s misery (may it long live on) and Manchester City failing to impress despite having the highest goal return probability through the first part of the season. Liverpool is the darling, Tottenham is the sad little sister who didn’t get a prom date, and Everton are as close to the title as I am to actually being 145 pounds.

Nowhere in there do you hear a murmur about the best player in the Premier League, the smartest managerial and tactical decisions thus far, or the best signing of the entire summer.

I am biased, I have my head squarely up my own ass, and I am here to create an argument.

The PLAYER, MANAGER, and SIGNING of the season are all members of Arsenal. Let me explain:

Player of the year: Alexis Sanchez

With 11 goals and 4 assists Alexis Sanchez is tied for the Premier League lead in goals scored, and has scored a goal every 107 minutes so far in League. These numbers alone don’t elevate him above players like Diego Costa or Eden Hazard in the ‘POTY’ conversation, but what does is the manner at which he gets his goals.

If you watched last week’s demolishing of West Ham United (sry pet) you will have seen a player at the absolute peak of his ability with the confidence to match it. I mean, are you kidding me?

This is entirely coming from the ‘9’ position in the Arsenal scheme, or as he likes to call it ‘no position at all and just run like a mad man who will be shot and killed if he fails to score a goal.’ This role is brand new for Sanchez, who was forced into it due to an untimely Giroud knock early in the season, Danny Welbeck being unable to get out of bed without picking up an injury, and Lucas Perez being purchased right on Arsenal time for the start of the season.

Alexis reportedly ‘watched some youtube videos’ on how to play as the striker in a 4-1-1-1-3 (how I refer to the Arsenal lineup) and was shifted there in a band-aid type of situation. All he’s done since is revitalize an offense that was apparently yearning for a mobile, channel-running striker. He is the best player on the team right now, in the form of his life, and would be voted by the PFA as player of the year if it ended today.

 

Signing of the Season: Shkodran Mustafi

Since Arsenal signed Mustafi, he has played in 16 games across all competitions at CB alongside Laurent Koscielny. Arsenal have lost exactly ZERO of those SIXTEEN games.

That position was filled last season by either Per Mertesacker, Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Flamini, or the emergency Nacho Monreal. Puke.

The stability that “Kostafi” has provided the Arsenal defense can not possibly be measured. They have spurned opponents chances, stabilized a defense known for giving up leaky goals, and created a sense of confidence that radiates from Cech’s posts up to Lexi’s feet.

Where Arsenal have been known as having a soft underbelly in the past, which has led to some of the collapses I mentioned prior, you would be lying if you said that the best centerback pairing in the Premier League currently plays at Arsenal. Anytime you can identify a team’s biggest weakness, sign a permanent German international starter in the exact position, AND get the whole thing for under 40 million… you have the deal of the summer.

This guy was almost 1/3rd the price of Paul Pogba.

Manager of the Year: Arsene Wenger

Now there is clearly a case to be made for Antonio Conte and the job he is doing thus far at Chelsea. Also, you can include the likes of Aitor Karanka at Middlesborough, Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, and even Pochettino at Tottenham as possible candidates for the award.

Just kidding about Pochettino.

The reason I would argue that Arsene deserves the accolades are simple. Look at the two points I have made above.

You have Alexis Sanchez in the form of his life playing a position that ARSENE FORCED HIM TO PLAY, you have a signing that was made in the one place your team needed it most, and the team is outperforming every expectation set for them. Did I mention they beat Chelsea 3-0 in the first matchup of Conte and Wenger?

Let’s not ignore the signing of Granit Xhaka in the deep-lying midfield position, the ability to transform Coquelin into a formidable box-to-box midfielder, and Arsene’s rotation of both the left back and outside midfielder positions to keep a deep squad relatively happy throughout. Not only has Wenger created a team with an incredible ‘option A’ but the substitutions of Giroud into vital moments have created an ‘Option B’ that would cement the Gunners in the Top 4 every single season.

Player of the year, Signing of the Summer, and a team sitting in second place with a 3-0 victory over the leaders in their only meeting. Fuck your 3-5-2 switch, Arsenal are for real and Arsene Wenger is a genius.

Arsenal are the best team in the Premier League. God be with us all for the remainder of the campaign.

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